Child Poverty Policy from Children’s Defense Fund
It is a national moral disgrace that children remain the poorest age group in the United States of America—one of the richest countries in the world. It is also unnecessary, costly and the greatest threat to the nation’s future national, economic and military security. Nearly 1 in 5 children—12.8 million in total—were poor in 2017. Over 45 percent of these children lived in extreme poverty at less than half the poverty level. Nearly 70 percent of poor children were children of color. About 1 in 3 American Indian/Alaska Native children and more than 1 in 4 Black and Hispanic children were poor, compared with 1 in 9 White children. The youngest children are most likely to be poor, with 1 in 5 children under 5 living in poverty during the years of rapid brain development.
Child poverty hurts children and our nation’s future. It creates gaps in cognitive skills for very young children, puts children at greater risk of hunger and homelessness, jeopardizes their health and ability to learn and fuels the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
We envision an America where no child lives in poverty and all children have the opportunities they need to reach their full potential. Protecting children against the lifelong consequences of poverty will improve their life and reduce child poverty in future generations. As a country, we have the resources to end child poverty and now must create the will to do so. We cannot afford to wait. The future of our children—and our nation—depends on it.
We work to end child poverty and ensure all families have resources to nurture their children by promoting improvements to policies and programs we know work. Ending child poverty will take a multi-pronged approach. To end child poverty now, we must:
Ensure Children’s Basic Needs are Met: We must increase investments in housing assistance for poor families, so they all can afford a safe and stable home to raise their children. We must also increase the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to cover a larger portion of the nutrition needs of children, so they are healthy and ready to learn. And we must make the Child Tax Credit fully refundable to ensure more low-income families benefit.
Increase Employment and Make Work Pay: We must increase wages for working families, expand subsidized jobs with special attention to the needs of young adults disconnected from school and work, and provide access to quality, reliable child care.
Level the Playing Field for Poor Children: To reduce child poverty long term, children also need access to affordable, comprehensive physical and behavioral health care, affordable high-quality early development and learning opportunities, high performing schools and colleges, and families and neighborhoods free from violence.